• France's news in English
 

Brussels threatens France over Roma policy

Published: 25 Sep 2013 15:43 GMT+02:00

The European Commission was forced once again on Wednesday to threaten sanctions against France over its policy towards the Roma community, sending a reminder to Paris that the minority were citizens of the EU and therefore free to go where they want.

“Free movement as freedom to reside in another country are fundamental rights. If these principles enshrined in the treaties are not met, then the commission will use all means at its disposal,” to sanction such violations, warned spokesman Olivier Bailly.

“The Roma, like all EU citizens, enjoy the right to freedom of movement in all EU member states and to reside in a country other than their country of origin,” Bailly added.

This is not the first time Brusels has sent a warning to Paris. Three years ago the Commission's Vice President Viviane Reding sent a similar threat to former president Nicolas Sarkozy that Roma expulsions had to stop.

But camp evictions have continued and even increased under the Socialist government. The Roma question, which is rarely off the political agenda in France flared up again this week, thanks in the main to some inflammatory words by the country's Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

Valls  insisted on Wednesday that he stood by a controversial call for tens of thousands of ethnic Roma to be kicked out of France.

Valls has triggered an outcry from human rights groups, the European Commission and some of his government colleagues by saying any Roma not working should be "delivered back to the borders", describing their way of life as "extremely different from ours," and claiming they will never integrate into French society.

The latter remark earned the minister a rebuke from his cabinet colleague, Arnaud Montebourg, who pointedly alluded to Valls' own status as the Barcelona-born son of Spanish immigrants who left for France during Franco's dictatorship.

"A theory that such and such a person or such and such a people will never, ever be able to integrate just doesn't stand up," Montebourg said.

"That's what they said about the Italians, that's what they said about the Spanish, it's what they said about the Portuguese, and what they said about the Arabs.

"Decreeing in advance that it is impossible seems to me excessive and is worthy of being corrected."

Valls hit back: "I've got nothing to correct. My remarks only shock those who don't know the subject."

He then repeated remarks that Amnesty International described as likely to "perpetuate stereotypes and encourage animosity" towards the 20,000 plus Roma currently living in France in makeshift camps.

"The majority (of Roma) should be delivered back to the borders," Valls said. "We are not here to welcome these people. I'd remind you of (former Socialist premier) Michel Rocard's statement: It's not France's job to deal with the misery of the whole world."

On Tuesday he had claimed the Roma in France had no interest in integrating, reiterating previous assertions that most of them were at the mercy of begging and prostitution networks.

The European Commission has repeatedly questioned the legality of the government encouraging local councils to systematically dismantle illegal Roma camps and offering the expelled residents free flights and financial incentives to return to their countries of origin, primarily Bulgaria and Romania.

The policy has also been criticised by the UN's human rights arm. 

Under pressure from the EU and what the daily Liberation described as the "humanist" wing of the government, Valls agreed last year that Roma camp clearances should not take place without alternative housing plans being put in place first.

But that policy has rarely been applied and 80 percent of the 12,000 Roma expelled from their temporary homes in 2012 were forced to leave, the European Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AEDH) said in a report earlier this year.

Valls maintains that forced evictions are preferable to tolerating squalid, insanitary camps and has defended repatriations as a better alternative than allowing Roma in France to continue working for organised criminal gangs.

But his approach has been criticised as a waste of money by France's public spending watchdog.

Despite thousands of government-financed repatriations, the numbers of Roma in France have remained stable, reflecting the reality that anyone flown back to Romania or Bulgaria can immediately return to France under EU freedom of movement laws.

Don't miss stories like this - join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France tells Cameron referendum is 'very risky'
UK Prime Minister David Cameron meets French President François Hollande on a trip to Paris in January. Photo: AFP

France tells Cameron referendum is 'very risky'

France's foreign minister Laurent Fabius fired a warning to UK Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of his trip to Paris on Thursday, telling him the EU referendum was "very risky" and that Britain would 'certainly' have the most to lose if it left the EU. READ  

'Drunk Paris police' kill motorist in car crash

'Drunk Paris police' kill motorist in car crash

UPDATED: Two Paris police officers are in custody on Thursday after allegedly causing a crash that killed a delivery driver in the centre of the city. The police officers were said to have been drunk at the time. READ  

Prostitution costs France '€1.6 billion each year'
Paying or accepting payment for sex is not a crime in France. Photo: AFP

Prostitution costs France '€1.6 billion each year'

The 37,000 prostitutes in France are costing the country €1.6 billion a year, according to a new and extensive study that examined the economic effects that the sex industry has on French society. READ  

Can France's new mega university rival the best?
An aerial view of the Paris-Saclay campus. But can it really rival Harvard or Oxford and Cambridge? Photo:

Can France's new mega university rival the best?

France's new mega university Paris-Saclay will officially open for business later this year, but can it really rival the very best institutions in the world? French researcher Jean-Claude Thoenig takes a closer look. READ  

France tells Iran: 'No inspections then no deal'
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (L) meets with Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif during nuclear talks in Lausanne. Photo: AFP

France tells Iran: 'No inspections then no deal'

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday that France would oppose a nuclear deal with Iran if it did not allow inspections of military sites. READ  

Barman guilty after client dies drinking 56 shots
A French barman was convicted for letting a client drink 56 shots in one night after which he died.

Barman guilty after client dies drinking 56 shots

A French barman received a suspended jail sentence on Wednesday after he was convicted of manslaughter for letting a man do 56 shots during a drinking contest that led to his death. READ  

France: 43 percent say no to daily shower
Only 57 percent of the French shower every day. Photo: Shutterstock

France: 43 percent say no to daily shower

Over forty percent of French people don't take a shower every day, according to a new poll that took a closer look at French people's habits with all things water. READ  

Are top polluters funding Paris climate summit?
The EDF (Electricty of France) powerhouse of Cordemais near Nantes, western France. Photo: AFP

Are top polluters funding Paris climate summit?

France on Wednesday unveiled a list of companies which will sponsor the year-end UN climate talks in Paris, sparking accusations of corporate "greenwashing" from campaigners. READ  

Property in France
Ten French manors for the price of a London flat
This chateau is cheaper than an average London home. Photo: Leggett Immobilier

Ten French manors for the price of a London flat

The average property in London is now topping €700,000 (£500,000) - but can you imagine what you can get in rural France for that kind of money? Take a look at these ten rustic paradises in France and try to pretend you're not tempted. READ  

Mediterranean Migrant Crisis
EU tells France to open border to 9,000 migrants
Photo: AFP

EU tells France to open border to 9,000 migrants

The European Commission laid out on Wednesday its controversial emergency measure to relocate tens of thousands of migrants around Europe. France was asked to open its doors to over a total of over 9,000 refugees over the next two years. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
'We need to talk about Europe... and what it has brought the UK'
National
Look what you can buy in France for the price of a London flat
France honours four French Resistance heros
Culture
The French film that cinemas are too scared to show
Features
How many of these stunning Paris streets have YOU walked down?
National
British woman bites off French reveller's thumb
National
200 years on, why is Waterloo still taboo for the French?
Features
Take a tour of the best Metro stations that Paris has to offer
National
Soon there'll be a fixed fare for a taxi ride from the airport into Paris
National
Drug dealers in Marseille are offering customers loyalty cards
Soon there'll be no minimum for using your bank card in France
Features
Fancy starting a business and living in Paris? There's help available
National
Are you fearing a Brexit? Maybe it's time to become a French citizen
How hard-up French are tempted by money to take migrants to the UK
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: 9 questions every expat should ask
Education
More English words (including 'le selfie') sneak into French
Charlie Hebdo to give €4.3m to attack victims
National
French Protestants bless gay marriage
Opinion
Why elitism is dragging France down
Features
RECIPE: How to make your own picnic-perfect meringues
Business & Money
French tax declaration deadline: Key things to remember
VIDEO: Can YOU pronounce the trickiest word in French?
France tops holiday wish list for children
National
Study: Women do bulk of housework in France
National
VIDEO: Police use force on Calais migrants
National
This man is France's Instagram king. But who else makes the top list?
Features
Free museum entry, film festivals, sports... see What's On this in May
Culture
Behind the curtain: A closer look at the Cannes Film Festival
National
It's a boy! Baby born on Air France flight to Paris
Features
Love-locked: Whatever happened to Paris's beautiful bridges?
'Forget the UK election, expats should be able to vote in France'
Thomas Piketty backs Miliband for Britain but not Hollande for France
Gallery
The most spectacular sunset pictures from around France
National
France tells migrants in Calais to 'forget the UK and stay here'
Society
VIDEO: See what's beneath the surface of the French Riviera
National
French teen suicide after sex video web bullying
France launches bid to buy Europe's biggest and most spectacular dune
Double standards? French Muslim barred from class over long skirt
National
France goes on the defensive after UN experts say 'racism is trivialised'
Five reasons we should be worried about France's new snooping laws
International
The French don't seem to care about the UK election and that's normal
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se